The Taser's Edge

Being Helpful in the Pediatric ICU
November 1, 2008, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized




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Last week, my on-call followed two nights of six or fewer hours of sleep.  The day before mine was terribly busy, and the person whom I relieved had only been able to lie down to sleep at 4:30 in the morning.  This was good news for me, as long as the general pattern held—busy night followed by slow day.  But my night was well-punctuated—one call every two to three hours.  The final page came in at 6:10 a.m.

            It was for a family in the Pediatric ICU, whose child had been flown in from South Boston the night before after some type of critical incident.  I never knew what had caused her condition (but I overheard something about sickle cell from some nurses who also referred to her as “the girl who’s dying in xxxx”), and I never looked at her chart.  When I arrived, the mother was with two other family members in the conference room.  I introduced myself to her, and all she could say was, “So, do you want to come see her?”  We walked into the child’s room, took both parents’ hands in mine (the father was already in the room) and we began to pray for their child just as she coded.

            Instantly the room was filled with the medical team.  To my surprise, although they pushed us out of the way, they didn’t ask us to leave.  The parents stood there, the mother crying out to God over and over.  And in the commotion, I was shoved across the room, where I prayed and concentrated on radiating my pastoral presence throughout the room.  (I don’t really think it works like that, but this is not the only time I have found myself trying.)

            Thankfully, the nurse who was charting all the procedures done as the team revived the little girl gave me an opportunity to be helpful: “What’s today’s date?”

            “I think it’s the 24th,” I said.  As far as I can tell, that’s the best ministry I did in that room.  And when I make that comment, I'm not trying to say I was useless in the situation.  I'm saying that that is the way in which chaplains are sometimes helpful.  That is the way that pastoral care sometimes looks.

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